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January 14, 2018

Intricate moves


January 14, 2018

The PML-N-led coalition government in Balochistan still exists on paper but it has been wounded badly, some may say mortally. The election of the PML-Q’s Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo as the new chief minister of the province on Saturday to replace the deposed Sanaullah Zehri shows that the ‘rebels’ now have a huge advantage. Between those in the government who were part of the revolt against Zehri and opposition members, Bizenjo was able to get 41 of the 54 votes cast in the election. Bizenjo was also a central part of the uprising against Zehri, and his elevation puts in question the original claim that Zehri was only forced to resign for performance reasons rather than as part of a larger political plan. Had the latter been the case, the PML-N would have been able to nominate its own candidate for the post. By picking a person from within their ranks, the dissenters have shown that they now intend to dictate the direction the government takes, with the PML-N leadership in the province and federation pushed to the side.

As yet Bizenjo has given no indication on how he intends to instruct his bloc to vote in March’s Senate elections. Eleven Senate seats from Balochistan are up for grabs and the PML-N and its allies had expected to pick up at least six of them. That is now in doubt as the intentions of the new power force in the coalition are unclear. Bizenjo’s own motivations for joining the rebel alliance may be more personal than ideological. He had expected to become speaker of the Balochistan Assembly after the incumbent Jan Mohammad Jamali resigned ahead of a no-confidence motion, but was overlooked by Zehri. He then resigned from his position as deputy speaker and is believed to have nursed a grievance against the chief minister since then. Should Bizenjo and his supporters decide to vote against the PML-N’s senatorial candidates, that in itself will not be enough to prevent the ruling majority from taking over control of the Senate from the PPP. But those who have been speculating that the crisis in Balochistan was engineered by a combination of anti-democratic forces and opposition parties may argue that Balochistan may have been the first pawn sacrificed in an intricate chess move against the PML-N. If stability and clarity – and above all credibility – were the issues, Bizenjo would be expected to clarify what his intentions are. That he will not even if he appears to be doing so is certain. For, no matter what it is, it is certainly not the game where ‘abstract’ notions matter.

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